In Japan, they have a saying: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” The message is that those who don’t conform, for the good of society, are a threat to harmony and must be brought down. On this side of the ocean, I’ve noticed that there is a similar societal pressure to be likeable and have a pleasing personality. No matter your other talents, it’s important to have a high “emotional intelligence” if you want to have success. It’s important to be popular, otherwise you’re a big fat loser, right?

The funny thing is, I’ve noticed that a lot of assholes are popular. It ain‘t scientific, but two individuals from my past who I consider to be absolutely piss-poor human beings for being selfish, vengeful, manipulative and just plain mean, each have over 200 friends on Facebook. Maybe they work at large companies with lots of co-workers on FB, but I suspect it’s just because they’re assholes who happen to be likeable assholes. In other words, they are good politicians.

This is not to say that everyone who is likeable is an asshole, oh no. I know many people who just seem to have that gift for easy rapport with anyone who they meet. My sister’s friends especially, seem to have the knack of making you feel remembered and important each time you see them. They remember what you talked about the last time you saw them, they ask how such-and-such is going, they share freely of wine and cigarettes and other little social lubricants. There is no agenda; they’re not just waiting for you to finish your thought so they can jump in with theirs.

I always wanted to be more like that, to get on easily with whoever life throws in my path, and have that sort of easiness with people. But I’ve never quite mastered it. I never remember anyone I don’t already know when a mutual friend brings them up in the conversation. Like someone I met at a party. Who? What did they look like? Oh sure I remember now… (no idea) I don’t remember birthdays. I’m told I put up walls when first meeting someone, or that I can appear rather cold and silent. I mostly just feel shy and awkward when meeting another person for the first time, and beyond that impatient and/or infuriated. Sometimes I can’t wait to just get home and get away from people.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at hiding my feelings, and I’m an awful liar. So whatever I’m feeling seems to leak out and someone always seems to take it upon themselves to call me on it. That part always bewilders me, especially when it takes the form of advice, like “You should be nicer to me!” or insults, like my favourite: “You’re a cold-hearted bitch!” I mostly try to stay uninvolved, and I’ve never tried deliberately to hurt anyone, so it always takes me by surprise when others try to attack me for … being imperfect, unlikeable me. Bloody well mind your own business, is my usual reaction followed lots of imagined snappy comebacks.

Going back to my original point, it makes people angry to deal with someone who just doesn’t care what others think of them. Ah, now I remember where that came from, the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. In the story, Toru constantly compares himself to Nagasawa, the future politician who shows him how to get laid without caring so much about it. He does have some lingering angst about it, and Midori, the independent love interest, tells him that not really caring about what others think is what sets him apart from society. I guess that’s me too.

I know myself pretty well, and I know I havewalls and defenses. I like to think I’m generous to friends (and I cannot stand cheapness in others!) but once you cross me, there’s pretty much no going back. It doesn’t even have to be a huge fight. I’ve had disagreements, passive-aggressive bitch fights, and although I’ll obsess for awhile over the conflict, I won’t make the effort to right things unless the other person and I are really close. Generally, I choose flight over fight.

Despite it all, though, people generally know where they stand with me, and I don’t much care about pretending to like someone I don’t, or sucking up for political reasons. You can like me if you want. I like to be liked.

I’m really not sure why I am this way, but I guess I had to get it off my chest.

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